Web Designers Missing From Google Local

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

A couple of weeks ago, Google decided to stop showing local results for website designers. Type in "web design nuneaton", "web design coventry" or "web design" followed by any other geographical location and you just get the bog-standard organic search results - the ten-pack has gone AWOL.

And it's not just the phrase "web design" that's affected either. The terms "search engine optimisation (SEO)", "web marketing", "web development" and a plethora of other terms have ceased to show related local businesses. The whole industry has been pretty much wiped.

Fortunately for me, the changes don't affect me too much as most of my projects come from word-of-mouth and I still rank fairly highly in the organic results but I know of a few web designers out there that rely heavily on their Google Local ranking and are beginning to panic a little.

I know of no official response from Google as to their reasoning behind these changes, but we can always speculate :)

Ally Lennon of Big Orange Planet suggested that maybe Google is intending to offer services in the web design and marketing arena and is snuffing out the competition beforehand. I think his comment was a little tongue-in-cheek and he was quick to reject it himself :)

On the Google forums, djole suggested that perhaps it was Google's way of increasing revenue:
"Local business results place was getting their attention and they ware clicking on the LBR always now they use the paid results."
Whilst there may be some truth in this, I think the reasons are far less sinister. I'm guessing Google are experimenting with removing the local search results from organic search, and are using web developers as their testbed. As an Inernet company, Google know that web developers/designers/marketers are far more likely to notice any changes to search and send free feedback to them - slightly similar to the way they are using web developers to BETA test Google Caffeine.

Whether this is, as djole suggested, to increase Pay-Per-Click revenue or if it's simply to improve search results, we'll probably never know but, if Google get the desired results, I'd expect local search to be removed from organic search results for other industries too. Similarly, if Google don't get what they want from, I'd expect local results for web designers to return.

In the meantime, without an official response from Google there's very little anyone can do about it, so we just have to sit tight and see what happens - but it's always nice to speculate :)

Mysterious Changing Address: Google Maps Wrong!

Monday, 26 October 2009

This weekend, I was surprised to discover that the listed address in Google Local for one of my client's businesses was incorrect.

I had done nothing to change the listing and my client certainly hadn't either (as she doesn't know her Google Account password) so what was going on?

I checked her listing details and found that the address was correct, which led me to believe that the listing shown in Google Local was not the same one as I had created for her - someone or something had created a duplicate listing for the business.

At this point, I began to panic a little because the last thing a business needs is to have their Google listing hijacked by some unknown entity. As well as preventing the real owners from optimising their listing, an unscrupulous hijacker could use their control to tarnish a business' reputation.

Fortunately, my worries were unfounded. After digging a little deeper I discovered that although the address was correct, the map marker had moved some 2 miles away from where it should be. Google was generating the wrong address from the location of the marker.

I fixed the incorrect marker location in Google Local Business Centre and within 8 hours, to my relief, everything was back to normal.

I'm still none the wiser as to why the marker flew across town. If anyone else has had this same problem, I'd love to hear from you.

Google Local Search: The Anatomy of Google's Search Results Page

Monday, 28 September 2009

If you're new to "Local Search Marketing" then distinguishing the results of Google Local from the standard Google search results may be a little confusing.

To aid understanding, I've knocked up a quick graphic showing the different search results that Google returns for the phrase 'builders nuneaton'.

I know it's not the best graphic in the World but I didn't have a lot of time and it should still (hopefully) get the point across :)

As you can see, the first three results and the right-hand sidebar (in the green boxes) are PPC, or sponsored results. PPC stands for Pay Per Click - businesses pay money each time a searcher clicks one of these links. Getting your business to the top of this list simply requires getting a Google Adwords account and outbidding your competitors.

Below this are the Local Results (in the orange box). This consists of a little map and ten businesses offering the services that are searched for - this is known in the industry as the 'Google ten-pack'. This is the area that Local Search Marketers are aiming to get their business into.

Finally, in the blue box are the standard Google results (otherwise known as organic results). This is the area that generic search engine optimisation tactics work for.

In most cases, the Google 10-pack is above the organic search results, which often results in a lot more traffic.

Get Listed in Microsoft UK's Bing/MSN/Live Business Directory

Monday, 7 September 2009

Microsoft's apathetic attitude to broadcasting their local data sources combined with the reluctance of professional search engine marketers to give away "trade secrets" has made it very difficult for business owners to get listed in the local results of Bing.

Many UK business owners have tried using the option on Bing's website to get a business listing but have subsequently found that it is only available for our American cousins - required fields include state and ZIP code, which of course aren't part of the address format here in the UK.

I recall when I first began to seek out Microsoft's local data sources, it wasn't an easy task. I rang Microsoft, spoke to Microsoft employees (one of which worked in the 'Local' department) and searched the web all to no avail. Eventually, I found the answer - Microsoft gets UK local business listings from a company called Market Location. Here's a link to the form where you can submit your business details.

It takes around four to six weeks from submission before you will start to see your business in Bing's local search results.

>> Getting your business listed in Yahoo! Local UK.

CITATIONS: A Most Important Part of Local Search Optimisation

Thursday, 27 August 2009

One of the best ways to improve your Local Search Ranking is by splashing citations for your business around the Internet.

What is a Citation?
In the context of Local Search Marketing, a citation is simply your business details (name, address, telephone number etc.) displayed on another website. Google especially, gives a lot of weight to any citations it finds. If you have some knowledge of organic search engine optimisation, you'll understand the importance of backlinks - citations are analogous to backlinks in Local SEO.

Getting Citations
Although you can get citations from any website on the Internet, you should be aiming for those that rank well in search engines - a citation on Auntie Maud's blog won't make much difference to your ranking whereas a citation on your industry body's website will. You are aiming for quality over quantity and websites associated with your industry are even better. A quick email or phone call to the website owner is all you need.

As a sidenote, if your business has a website, make sure your contact details are displayed on every page, perhaps in the footer or sidebar. In effect this is citing yourself but it really does help your rankings.

Finally, the best source of citations are online business directories such as Yell.com, TouchLocal and BView. Most allow you to submit your details for free. The only difficulty is sorting the wheat from the chaff. There are thousands of directories and most of them won't really improve your rankings very much, so choosing which ones to spend time on can be a little overwhelming. I will write a post in the near future about the best directories to submit your details to but in the meantime, the three listed above are a good start.

Tip #1: You Don't Need a Website To Rank High In Local Search

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A popular misconception about local search engine marketing is that you need a business website get a decent ranking. I've even heard one person (who shall remain nameless) say that you can't get listed by Google and Yahoo if you don't have a website.

Nothing could be further from the truth - here's some screenshots to quash this line of thinking:

Both screenshots show the local search results for the phrase "builders maidstone", the first being from Yahoo! and the second from Google. The number one business in both cases does not have a website, yet they sit atop the rest, many of which do have websites.

Although a business website can be very useful (and maybe essential, depending on your line of work) to your overall marketing strategy, it is not essential to be listed in the major local search engines.

Yahoo! UK Local Business Listing HowTo

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Getting listed in Yahoo's Local Business Directory is a 2-step process:
  1. Submit your details
  2. Confirm your listing
Then it's around a 5 week wait (although this can vary) before you start to appear in local searches.

Submit Your Details
Yahoo! have outsourced the management of their UK Local Business Listings to a company called Infoserve. These are the guys you need to submit your details to. Click here for the submission form, fill it in and wait for a phone call.

Confirm Your Listing
A day or two after submitting your business details, Infoserve will give you a call to "confirm your listing". They'll go through your details with you to make sure everything is correct.

Actually, what they're really doing is trying to sell you sponsored advertising space on the Yahoo website. Be courteous, listen what they have to say then firmly tell them that all you want is the free listing. It's important to hear them out because they are the people that will ultimately get you listed. Some of their operators can be a bit pushy but most will be quite reasonable. For some industries the paid lisings can be a great marketing method but for most the free listing will suffice.

Now all you have to do is wait a variable amount of time before you appear in the lisings (it all depends on when they are next updated). From my experience, this can be between 2 to 6 weeks.